The amazing thing about the West Coast is that it is still mostly wild, open, and astoundingly beautiful country, where you can drive for miles and miles and have the scenery all to yourself.
The 17-Mile Drive and Pebble Beach
Spanning the coast between Pacific Grove and Carmel, the 17-Mile Drive is one of the most famous toll roads in the nation. Opened in the 1880s, the route initially took guests of Monterey’s posh Hotel Del Monte on a scenic carriage ride along the coast through the newly planted Del Monte Forest between Carmel and Pacific Grove. Guided by Samuel F. B. Morse, son of the inventor, the formerly wild area underwent development beginning in the 1920s, first with golf courses like Pebble Beach and Cypress Point, and since then with resort hotels and posh homes.
Enter the drive at any of the gates, where you’ll pay the toll (about $10; bicyclists are free, and motorcyclists are banned) and be given a map and guide to the route, pointing out all the scenic highlights, especially the trussed-up old Lone Cypress, legally trademarked subject of so many Carmel postcards. It’s definitely worth doing the drive, if only to say you have, but to be honest, the views from the drive are no more or less splendid than they are from the toll-free drives, like Ocean View Boulevard in Pacific Grove, Scenic Road in Carmel, or Hwy-1 through Big Sur. You do, however, get to stop at the Lodge, where your toll will be deducted from the price of lunch or dinner. If you’re in the mood to splurge on wanton luxury, you can also stay overnight at either of two extremely plush golf and tennis resorts: the modern, suburban-style country club of The Inn at Spanish Bay (1700 17-Mile Dr., 831/647-7500 or 800/654-9300), which is also home to an Ansel Adams photography gallery, or the stately, old-money Lodge at Pebble Beach (1700 17-Mile Dr., 831/647-7500 or 800/654-9300). Both resorts charge upwards of $600 a night; for details on accommodations (or Pebble Beach golf fees and tee times), call 800/654-9300.